Currently reading: Used car sales down more than 400,000 as buyers tighten belts
Strong prices cited as a factor in the drop, but battery-electric vehicles recorded a 57.1% rise in sales

UK used car sales dropped in the second quarter of 2022, with more than 407,000 fewer vehicles changing hands than in the same period last year.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said this was “inevitable” due to the “squeeze” on new car supplies trickling down to the used car market, which had inflated used car prices.

“Prices remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic as consumers are willing to pay a premium to avoid having to wait,” said Chris Knight, automotive partner at KPMG.

Others in the car industry agree that less disposable income as a result of the cost-of-living crisis was also prompting owners to hold on to their cars for longer, instead of looking to upgrade.

This was portrayed within the latest figures, released today, which showed that between April and June, 1,759,684 used car transactions took place, down 18.8% (407,820) on the same period the year before. This was also 13.5% (274,552) down on Q2 of pre-pandemic 2019.

Declines were recorded in each month, with falls in April (16.8%), May (20.9%) and June (18.6%).  Overall, 3,535,035 cars have been sold on the used market so far this year, down 8.3% on 2021 (3,855,259).

However, the SMMT says the scale of the decline is inflated due to the easing of lockdown restrictions in the same period last year, which resulted in the busiest second quarter since records began.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, with battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) recording a 57.1% rise in sales (16,782), while plug-in hybrids held relatively stable with 1% growth to 15,633 sales. Hybrids, meanwhile, declined by 4% to 43,019 sales. 

As expected, the main sales came in the form of used petrol and diesel vehicles, totalling 1,682,280 units and accounting for 95.6% of sales.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “It was inevitable that the squeeze on new car supply would filter through to the used market. 

“Despite this, Britain’s used car buyers clearly have a growing appetite for the latest low- and zero-emission cars, and we need a thriving new car market to feed it.”

Knight added: “Consumer demand for used cars may well drop in the coming months, but the supply landscape is such that it’s unlikely that we see major price corrections in the near term.”

1 Ford fiesta active front cornering 0 0

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The figures also showed the Ford Fiesta was the most popular used car to buy, with 71,429 sales, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa (57,306) and Volkswagen Golf (54,268).

The most popular segment types were supermini (31.4%) and hatchback (26.5%). Black cars proved the most common colour, accounting for more than one in five (21.5%) sales, followed by blue and grey. Pink cars proved the least common overall, comprising 1135 units.

Will Rimell

Will Rimell
Title: Deputy news editor

Will is a journalist with more than eight years experience in roles that range from news reporter to editor. He joined Autocar in 2022 as deputy news editor, moving from a local news background.

In his current role as deputy news editor, Will’s focus is with Autocar and Autocar Business; he also manages Haymarket's aftermarket publication CAT.

Writing is, of course, a big part of his role too. Stories come in many forms, from interviewing top executives, reporting from car launches, and unearthing exclusives.

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jason_recliner 12 August 2022

Err, have you seen the prices of used cars? Most people aren't stupid. Everybody can see prices falling already. Why would you buy now?

Andrew1 10 August 2022
Energy crisis, inflation crisis, household squeeze, payouts and... "consumers are willing to pay a premium". Right...
xxxx 10 August 2022

Thought plenty about replacing my current car but there'd be very little advantage to have. Cars have just plateaued or even worsened in many aspects. My 6 and 8 year old cars are as reliable, as fast, as economical and look as modern as their replacement, just compare a fiesta from 10 years ago to todays model, they even have the same engine.

In fact most new cars are worse, bigger, heavier, more complicated and worse of all many have an additional battery that does very little except add weight, cost and complexity.

No as I've said previously I'll buy a current model around 2024 to avoid all the GSR2 rubbish and that'll give me another 10 years of driving.